Tag Archives: race

HuffPost Retracts Controversial Post Due to Lack of Author’s Existence

Huffington Post South Africa was fine with an April 13 article arguing white men should be denied the right to vote, but when they could not contact the author and subsequently found no evidence of her existence, they pulled the article and an editorial defending it.

The blogger wrote that her argument “may seem unfair and unjust,” but “allowing white males to continue to call the shots politically and economically, following their actions over the past 500 years, is the greater injustice.”

HuffPo South Africa’s editor in chief, Verashni Pillay, supported this idea. “Those who have held undue power granted to them by patriarchy must lose it for us to be truly equal. This seems blindingly obvious to us.”

But when the supposed author of the piece went unverified, the whole argument fell apart. I’d like to say this is another example of how liberalism undermines itself, calling for the benefits of the virtues it works against, but that bit of sense seems absent here. This is simply nonsense.

Why Not Ask the Black Church?

“The Benedict Option fails to ask how black believers have survived racial, economic, and social marginalization with their faith intact.” Jemar Tisby offers an important perspective to Rod Dreher’s new book, a book he has mulled over for at least ten years. When considering options for the persecuted church in America, it seems natural to look to those portions of the church that have lived through persecution, but as Tisby writes, this is a continuing blind spot for many white people.

The reality for many white believers is that Christians of color may provide inspiring stories of resistance and are certainly nice to have on display in the congregation, but they are not a true source of wisdom for the white church. To some white Christians, the faith traditions of racial minorities may offer great aesthetics like preaching or musical style, but they don’t have the legitimacy to lead the way into the future. The constant refusal to learn from the black church can only be termed ecclesiastical arrogance.

The Real Reason the Benedict Option Leaves Out the Black Church

Dreher did start a conversation about the black church four years ago, asking why it hadn’t influenced communities more. That doesn’t answer Tisby’s critique, but it does offer a bit of context.

How Victorian Literature Inspired African-American Writers

Despite many arguments to the contrary, many writers and literary advocates have yearned for unique voices within single cultural traditions. In the early days of this country, we wanted to forge distinct American literature that was not dependent on our British roots or British authors. We continue that yearning in all artforms today. You’ll remember that one of the strength’s of the Netflix original Luke Cage is how culturally black it is.

In his fascinating and original new book, Reaping Something New: African American Transformations of Victorian Literature, Daniel Hack provocatively joins the contrarian chorus by examining the relationship between one of the most marginalized literary traditions and one of the most dominant. He has found that a wide range of the most important 19th-century African-American writers drew from and engaged with writers of equal importance to the Victorian literary tradition.

While it may be natural to want one’s own voice in art, many of us may unrealistically define that uniqueness. We may chafe at anything at smacks of dependency while ignoring the relationships and influences we cannot avoid. Nothing, after all, is truly original. (via Prufrock)

Two rejections

I seem to have stirred up a very small tempest with my review yesterday. The author of the book I reviewed (who seems to be a splendid guy) linked to my review on Facebook, and his fans went into a minuscule feeding frenzy. A couple of them even commented here. One concluded that because I believe that “truth is one,” I must be opposed to freedom of religion. This is a common misconception, especially among liberals. They assume that, like them, we on our side wish to criminalize all ideas we disagree with.

Easy mistake to make, in the hall of mirrors that is the modern world.

I wanted to re-state and elaborate on what I wrote last night. I have two arguments, each of which involves a Great Rejection.

I reject the idea of connecting religious truth to race or ethnicity in any way (except for the special calling of the Jews, a unique case and not exactly a privilege). If truth is different depending on the color of your skin, then the races will never be reconciled, because people of one race are essentially different – at their very core – from people of all other races. If truth depends on race, segregated churches are a good thing.

Christianity has rejected this idea from its very beginnings (read Acts 10).

It would seem to follow from this argument that I’m accusing my opponents of being racists. I actually think that very unlikely. They are almost certainly not racists. They are either a) unthinking, or b) relativist.

Most modern people don’t actually think their ideas through. They absorb, from TV, movies, and web sites, what the culture tells them to think, and they think that (to the extent that they think at all). Especially if it feels good. The idea of ethnic religion – when applied to minorities – feels broadminded and multicultural. So they adopt it, without worrying about the implications.

Others consider the issue of truth irrelevant. They believe that there are many truths. Your truth may not be my truth, and therefore black or red truth can be different from white truth. Everybody’s truth is equally good. And if the truths contradict one another, well, you just say that because you’re Eurocentric (“white truth” is considered slightly less true than the others).

I have always rejected the view that ultimate truth is relative. I will continue to reject it, God willing, until the day I die.

The Struggling Farmer

“This story is important to me because people in America aren’t aware that black farmers are still around,” Mr. Santiago said. “People don’t know what their struggles are and that they are still being discriminated against. For the most part, whether they are black or white, the farmers get pushed down and end up having to sell their properties because they can’t get loans. Small farms are denied because they don’t usually have any collateral to get a loan. Through my research I’ve learned if you’re looking for stolen black land, all you have to do is follow the lynching trail. That’s how it started to happen. Black farmers were killed for their land.”

Bulletproof Luke Cage in 2016

The Luke Cage stories of 1972 Marvel comics are not what you see in the new Netflix series. The new writers deliver a more mature story than their source material, Sam Knowles says, in many ways.

One clear improvement is apparent to anyone who happens to see cover art from the old comics. Luke was known as a ‘hero for hire.’ He used his abilities as a way to earn a living, which in the real world makes some sense, but what other superhero does this? The mercenaries are usually the bad guys. The good guys are heroes for the sake of justice. Knowles states,

Luke’s identity as a self-proclaimed ‘hero for hire’ sets him up in opposition to white superheroes, whose racial privilege enables the narrative of ‘superhero-ness’ to be about altruism. As a result, others look down on Luke’s attitude–most obviously Dr Noah Burstein [the scientist who gave Luke his power]: “I’ve heard how you’ve helped neighborhood merchants against Syndicate protection men. For a fee / Bit disillusioning from a so-called hero, isn’t it?”

Luke Cage and the Evolution of the Superhero Narrative

The Netflix story explicitly drops this idea early on. In the beginning, Luke doesn’t want to get involved at all. His father figure, ‘Pop’ Hunter, urges him to use his gifts to help others and later suggests he hire himself out, but Luke refuses. Though he struggles with whether his efforts to help amount to kicking the criminal hornets’ nest, he continues to help those he can because it’s the right thing to do. He loves the people of Harlem.  Continue reading Bulletproof Luke Cage in 2016

When The Church Doesn’t Feel Triumphant

Abandoned Church Building .

Russell Moore on the church in America and our intersection with public policies in today’s New York Times. We are not a majority white church anymore more nor should we want to be.

The Bible calls on Christians to bear one another’s burdens. White American Christians who respond to cultural tumult with nostalgia fail to do this. They are blinding themselves to the injustices faced by their black and brown brothers and sisters in the supposedly idyllic Mayberry of white Christian America. That world was murder, sometimes literally, for minority evangelicals.

Alan Noble talks about  the politicization of our morals and how that has raised fences around our communities.

Politics do not (or at least should not) define us, but cultural values that are traditionally wrapped up in political movements impact our perception of our neighbor. If politicians and the pundits who support them regularly speak about immigrants as threats to our country or view poor minorities as drains on our economy, or if they mock Christian voters as backwards bigots and pro-life advocates as anti-woman, it shapes the way we envision one another. We grow skeptical of one another, hostile, and cynical. In a word, we become less neighborly.

Black Lives, In Fact, Matter

HarlemOn Twitter, I have supported #BlackLivesMatter because I saw it in the Ferguson context and felt those who were using the hashtag were making good points. That’s the way hashtags are used. I didn’t think it might have been created for specific purposes. Today, Steven Wedgeworth describes the origins of what was meant to be a cultural movement and asks if Evangelicals should be co-opting the tag or consider themselves co-belligerents with them.

So far [Evangelicals] seem to be doing exactly what BLM asks them not to do. They are denying that BLM applies to a number of specific controversial political issues and are instead saying that it should primarily be understood as a generic affirmation of the defense and respect of Black life. There has been little to no interaction with the profound emphasis BLM places on sexual liberation, and Evangelicals have certainly not credited this ideology as the founding genius of BLM. In other words, you might say that Evangelicals have been stealing Black Queer Women’s work.

Wedgeworth suggests Christians advocate for the value of the black community and individual dignity in Christian terms and avoid draw unnecessary criticism to themselves by using other people’s banners.

Also in this vein, Jason Riley reviews Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and the Politics of Punishment, by Michael Javen Fortner.

The book’s broader point—and Fortner makes it in a clear, fluid prose style that rarely lapses into academic jargon—is that a black silent majority at the time “was much more alarmed about drug addiction and violent crime than its white analogue” and ultimately motivated to take action. It was blacks who instigated the crackdown on black criminality, often over the opposition of white liberals and black political elites.

Black families, particularly in New York City, were suffering from drug-related crime in the 60s and 70s, so they pressed for tough penalties for drug-related offenses, which incarcerated far more blacks than whites because of the criminal culture of the day. Now this racial disparity is criticized as racism within the law. Riley quotes Fortner, saying, “While the literature on mass incarceration has correctly highlighted racial discrimination within the criminal justice system, it has unnecessarily discounted the hurt and terror of those who clutch their billfolds as they sleep, of those who exit their apartments and leave their buildings with trepidation, and of those who have had to bury a son or daughter because of gang activity, the drug trade, or random violence.”

UPDATE: Ed Stetzer offers this brief perspective on the matter with his tag #HellenistWidowsMatter.

Do We Still Harbor Racism in the Church?

Jarvis Williams asks a few questions in an attempt to shed light on what may be intellectual racism in the evangelical movement. He asks, among other things, “In certain cases, why are black and brown intellectuals not taken seriously by evangelicals unless some prominent white evangelical voice grants his stamp of approval on them?” In this particular situation, I wonder if the trappings of celebrity are more involved in who is popularly accepted. I don’t quite know what being taken seriously means, but if it means that scholars and writers are ignored, couldn’t it be that established scholars and writers have already gained our interest and more likely to draw attention than one of many unknown authors? I’m sure Dr. Williams recognizes this possibility, which is why he is asking questions, not making accusations.

The same rationale would not apply to another of his questions, “Why is black and brown scholarship often ignored in many evangelical colleges and seminaries?” For this question, I have to ask what scholarship on non-racial issues is recognized as being black and brown. Is there a particularly good study that hasn’t gained the attention among evangelicals that we might think it should? Is there a seminary of black and brown scholars producing good work without adequate recognition from other seminaries? From where I sit, there are a handful of ways one seminary or individual may be dismissed by another: declared denomination, professed theological perspective, suspected theological perspective, and guilt by association with disrespected scholars. The essence of it all is simply a lack of trust. They don’t know the scholars they are ignoring and will not be challenged by or interested in scholars they don’t trust.

Green Book for Jim-Crow Era Travelers

There was a time when black businessmen and their families could not travel freely throughout the states. There were sundown towns, where blacks needed to leave before sunset to avoid trouble. There were hotels and restaurants which would not serve them. So a New York City mailman produced a green book to help them travel comfortably.

With the introduction of this travel guide in 1936, it has been our idea to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable. The Jewish press has long published information about places that are restricted and there are numerous publications that give the gentile whites all kinds of information. But during these long years of discrimination, before 1936 other guides have been published for the Negro, some are still published, but the majority have gone out of business for various reasons. In 1936 the Green Book was only a local publication for Metropolitan New York, the response for copies was so great it was turned into a national issue in 1937 to cover the United States.

Graham Auto Supply, Esso sign, Coca-Cola sign

ESSO stations were particularly hospitable and distributed the green books to all who asked. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in its 90th year, has digitized its Green Book collection.

Learning from Black Scholars

Dr. Jarvis Williams of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary talks about his life as a black man in a mostly white world and offers many practical suggestions for helping “some evangelicals see race and intelligent racial dialogue matters.”

For example, he writes, “white evangelicals must understand there are many black and brown intellectuals. There are many great black and brown preachers. Most white evangelicals I have interacted with never even read one book written by a person of color. Or they’ve never even heard of some of the great black and brown expositors. Ignorance will only reinforce one’s racial biases.”

Rejected Under His White Name

Poet Michael Hudson has a strategy for getting his poetry accepted. He explains it in a note attached to his contribution to The Best American Poetry.

“After a poem of mine has been rejected a multitude of times under my real name, I put Yi-Fen’s name on it and send it out again,” he wrote. “As a strategy for ‘placing’ poems this has been quite successful … The poem in question … was rejected under my real name forty times before I sent it out as Yi-Fen Chou (I keep detailed records). As Yi-Fen the poem was rejected nine times before Prairie Schooner took it. If indeed this is one of the best American poems of 2015, it took quite a bit of effort to get it into print, but I’m nothing if not persistent.”

The guest editor this annual collection, Sherman Alexie, was angered by Hudson’s bluff, but he kept the poem in the collection because Hudson’s rationale was looking him right in the eye. “If I’d pulled the poem then I would have been denying that I gave the poem special attention because of the poet’s Chinese pseudonym. If I’d pulled the poem then I would have been denying that I was consciously and deliberately seeking to address past racial, cultural, social, and aesthetic injustices in the poetry world.”

Naturally, this has stirred up a conversation about race and the merits of poetry.

Update: Hudson’s pseudonym is reportedly the name of one of his high school classmates. The Guardian states, “While the real-life Chou refused to speak to the paper directly, her sister said that the woman was furious at the appropriation of her name for this purpose.”

That Joseph, He Talk Like a White Boy

Sherry of Semicolon has a new URL for her blog and a review of Joseph C. Phillips’ new book about being a conservative black Christian living in Hollywood. She writes:

He is not a stereotypical black American, Joseph Phillips has faced misunderstanding and accusations of not being ‘black enough.” He has struggled to understand how much of his identity as a person depends on the color of his skin and how he can fit into American society as not just a man and an actor, but as a black man whose “race” is an inevitable part of what other people see when they see him, an inevitable part of the image he sees in the mirror.

You can read Phillips’ essays on his website.